The World Jamboree of Boy Scouts 1929

An aerial view of the great Jamboree Camp at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead. Near the centre of
the photograph is Arrowe Hall, and towards the back is the Rallying Ground, where all the
most important functions took place. From The Times of London, August, 1929


IF one good turn deserves another, it would be a heavy task to compute the number earned, from the day when each Boy Scout was first enrolled, by the whole body of the great Association which is celebrating the twenty-first anniversary of its foundation. The camp in which the idea of the movement first took concrete shape consisted of only four patrols—Curlews, Ravens, Wolves, and Bulls—with a total strength of twenty Scouts. Out of that tiny nucleus has grown the present world-wide Association of some 2,000,000 members, 50,000 of whom welcomed the Duke of CONNAUGHT when he opened their coming-of-age Jamboree, on Wednesday, July 31. The Scouts composing this fortieth part of the whole body are thoroughly representative. They come from about 70 different regions of the globe, about two-thirds of which are foreign nations outside the British Empire. From its earliest days the Association has grown with extraordinary rapidity. In January, 1908, it did not exist. Three and a half years later the DUKE of CONNAUGHT was able to announce that it had spread to all parts of the Empire with a world-membership of a quarter of a million, and in 1912 it received the grant of a Royal Charter. Not many public organizations have attained that dignity at so early a stage in their career. But the Boy Scout movement is something more than an organization. It is a living organism, the offspring and the constant care of a living man. Its real origin dates far back in the boyhood of SIR ROBERT BADEN-POWELL, at school and in the holidays. His scouting then actually was boy scouting, born and bred in the country. At first it took the primitive form of tracking small animals and hiding from possible enemies in the shape of masters or keepers. By degrees he began to learn in the town as well as in the country, on water as on land, to fend for himself, to observe and to make mental note of what he saw, to find out how things were done, and in small ways how to do some of them with his own hands. In later life the idea came to him that the practical knowledge he had picked up in this way might be used in helping to teach others— might be handed on, for instance, to the young soldiers in his own regiment, as a human training supplementary to the military drill and duties—and that in course of time they would dream, by constant and intelligent exercise of brain and limbs and hand and eye, and in fact of all the senses, to teach themselves. And then, finally, when the Defence of Mafeking had become past history, he conceived—or, at least, first put on paper—the still greater idea of the daily "Good Turn."

Seven years later, when the man who has earned the proud world-title of Chief Scout actually started the movement, he put this ideal of the "Good Turn"—the paramount duty of service to others—in the forefront of everything that he wrote and said about it. Without a shadow of doubt it is the vitalizing spirit of the organism which he has created. His object was to help the boys of his own country to become good and useful citizens. In scout craft, pure and simple, based on his own experiences as boy and man, he found to begin with, ready to his hand, a pursuit or pastime outside the ordinary run of the games and work which appealed to practically every wholesome instinct of the Eternal Boy—much the same creature, as events have proved, in all the countries of the world. It satisfied their almost universal taste for romance and adventure. It was carried on mainly out of doors. It enabled them to indulge—but always with a definite practical purpose in view—in the delights of camping, cooking, nature study, tracking, finding their way about by their own powers of observation and memory as well as by map-reading, the interpretation of small everyday signs on land and water, and the quick reading of sky and stars, besides more stereotyped exercises such as boating, swimming, carpentering, and other handicrafts. If he had stopped at this point he would no doubt have achieved a success of a kind in banding together a large number of boys and helping them to make their lives happier and healthier and more intelligent and self-reliant. But he had a higher aim in view. He wanted also to instill into their minds a proper regard for their own bodily development, a desire for cleanliness, physical and moral, and—more important still—habits of obedience and self-discipline, a sense of duty, self sacrifice, loyalty, and patriotism, a spirit of friendliness to man and beast, and a knightly code of charity, courtesy, thrift, honour, courage, cheerfulness, and general helpfulness. It is open to men of ordinary minds to argue, with a certain show of reason, that these qualities and virtues, however excellent in themselves, have nothing whatever to do with scout craft and scouting. Happily for the world the CHIEF SCOUT has not an ordinary mind. To him they seemed to be essential to the success of his scheme, which without them would have been as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. As it is they are the life and breath of the whole movement, and utterly confound, though they do not apparently convince, the sour and morbid and class-conscious critics who profess to detect in Scouting the cloven hoof of militarism.

The 50,000 Scouts encamped at Birkenhead are boys of many different countries and colours and classes and creeds. Yet an example full of encouragement for their elders throughout the world—they are a band of brothers, united by the common aim of doing service and showing kindness to each other and to all mankind. When the Great War broke out the Association was still in its infancy. The feet that 150,000 ex-Scouts—eleven of whom won the Victoria Cross and 10,000 of whom were killed— fought for their King and country does not stamp them as a military force. They only served, like every one else who could, as part of the manhood of the Empire. The specially remarkable feature of the work of the Association during the War was the tact and intelligence and willingness shown by every unit of the existing Boy Scouts of all the combatant nations, each in their own country in voluntary public services of all kinds, however dull and monotonous, in places outside and generally far removed from the zone of the armies. The same zeal and endurance and readiness to oblige are almost universally known and acknowledged to be the hall-mark and distinguishing badge of the Association in time of peace. In our own country, from the Throne to the humblest cottage, they are recognized and honoured as only second to the police in general utility. King Edward was their firm friend; King George is their Patron to-day; the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Connaught are the Chief Scouts for Wales and for Canada; and there is not a leading man in the country who would not gladly and proudly see his name connected with them. It can justly be said of them that as a body they practice what the Chief Scout preaches. At the Wembley Jamboree in 1924 not one single disciplinary ease was reported to the officers of the camp, and it will be a matter for astonishment if Arrowe Park does not show an equally clean sheet. In a tribute to the genius of the Chief Scout it was said by the Principal of Columbia University, New York, that in a bare decade he had done more to vitalize the methods of character training than all the schoolmen in America since the pilgrims landed on the New England coast. "And so"—not only in this country but all over the world—"say all of us."


Reprinted from The Times, London, 1929

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